At Thursday night’s Mayor & Council meeting, Mayor Carl Hokanson announced, “We now have a Roselle Park Business Chamber that we will have starting up very, very shortly.”
Clarifying that the municipality will not paying for it, Mayor Hokanson stated that the businesses got together and formed, or actually re-formed, a Chamber of Commerce. A Chamber of Commerce had previously been established in 1997 but was largely inactive.
The municipality also had attempted to implement revitalization efforts by having a Special Improvement District (SID). The SID was a government-business hybrid organization that actually started in 2005 and existed in name only until 2012. When it became active, the program had an additional 3% assessment levy added to property taxes to businesses along what is commonly known as the T-District which included commercial properties along Westfield Avenue from Locust Street to Walnut Street and those on Chestnut Street from Westfield Avenue to Lincoln Avenue. The money collected was to be managed and used by an elected 11-member Board of Trustees for special events and services, like plants in along Chestnut Street, in order to attract foot traffic and patrons. In 2014, council voted to abolish the program after a lack of participation from a majority of the 147 commercial property owners in the T-District and a failed attempt to expand the area of the SID due to little interest from the business community.
The Business Chamber will be completely independent and, according to the mayor, would have him and members of council as well as the community meet with the group on a regular basis to see what could be addressed in the business community. Although no other detailed information was provided at the meeting, a longstanding suggestion has been to have a business liaison market not only businesses but the borough as a whole and perhaps that would be one of the recommendations that could be discussed. It is yet to be determined when these meetings will be held and who will be welcomed to attend.
Mayor Hokanson remarked about the need for a Business Chamber, “Without the businesses, it’s going to put a burden on the taxpayers. Without us helping the businesses, we’re going to lose them and there’s momentum going on right now. We’re getting rid of the stigma that we’re not a [business] friendly town anymore.”
An inaugural reception is scheduled for December 10th at Borough Hall.